I spend the next few hours being cleansed better than I’ve ever been cleansed before. My prep team has made it clear my stylist doesn’t want to see me until everything has been taken care of.
“We just have to do one more thing, and then Portia will come see you,” says one of the women. She takes a salve from the top shelf of the cart standing next to the metal bed I’m lying on. She dips a gloved hand into the small container and touches my check with it. I’m immediately struck with searing pain, and jump away from her touch.
“What is that?”
“It’s a salve to keep you from growing a beard,” she says while smiling. Why would I need to be kept from growing a beard? What is I want a beard? And I don’t see how she could be smiling right now.
“What if I want a beard?”
“All the male tributes do it.” Now she looks disappointed. My heart all the sudden aches for her, even being from the captiol, I realize she is only doing what she has been told. I mean, what would i look like if I was from the capitol? “It’s supposed to help everyone recognize you in the arena.”
“Okay,” I sigh, “go ahead.” I shut my eyes, and let her apply the rest of the salve to my cheeks, chin, and neck. “How long is this supposed to keep hair from growing?” I ask while wincing away from the pain.
“Shh, stop moving. You do not want this stuff in your mouth.” What happens if I get it in my mouth? Nope, now that I think about it, I really don’t want to know. “Okay, you’re all set. I’m going to go get Portia now.” She smiles at me, as well as the other two members of the prep team as they exit my room. A few moments pass by, and a young woman enters the room.
“Hello Peeta, I’m your stylist, Portia,” she offers her hand, and I shake it. She doesn’t look like I expected her too. She still has a crazy capitol style, with her blonde wig and outrageous colors blended together in the same outfit, but she just isn’t the same. She isn’t down right hideous with tattoos marking her all over, or surgical alterations to make things on her face and body appear bigger or smaller than they really are. It seems that under her clothes, she probably hasn’t touched her body. I like that. That’s when I recognize her. She started being a stylist a couple years ago. “I want to talk to you about the opening ceremony tonight.”
“Alright, I know you have to put me in something related to coal miners because that’s our district industry.”
“Coal miners isn’t the district industry. That’s the workers,” she says smiling. Okay, I know Haymitch said I have to do exactly what the stylist says, but that smile is seriously scaring me. “Your industry is coal.” I think back to a few years ago when both of the district twelve tributes were sent out stark naked with coal dust covering their body. She seems like the type of person that would do something like that. “Cinna, Katniss’ stylist, and I wanted to put you both in complementary outfits.” Awesome, so I will be wearing the same thing as a girl. That will get me man points for sure. “Anyways, we want to put you in something unforgettable. And what’s more unforgettable than fire?”
“Fire?” I ask. “I’m going to be wearing fire.” I look down and chuckle softly to myself. I think I would rather be naked. At least I wouldn’t be burnt.
“Basically, yes.” She stands examining me a little more. “Your blonde hair will be perfect. It will complement the orange and red colors of a fire. Oh I just can’t wait!” she squeals.
A few hours later I’m dressed in a black unitard that covers my entire body except my feet, hands, and face. I have black leather boots that stop mid-calf, and a long cape that is shimmering with orange, yellow and red. Portia and Cinna plan to light it on fire. To make matters worse, I also have make up on. Not much, but it highlights my face. I feel like a girl. It’s a problem.
I meet Katniss down the hall, and see she is dressed in the exact same outfit, except her boots lace up to the knees. At least my boots are a little manlier. That counts for something, right? Everyone is excited, except Cinna who I meet alongside Katniss in the hall. We are taken to the bottom level of the remake center, and there are horses everywhere. Other pairs of tributes are filing in as well. I look around at the other tributes. Some stylists did the same as Cinna and Portia and put their tributes in complementary outfits. Like the pretty girl from district 1 is dressed in a luxurious silver outfit, along with her male partner. But district 7’s stylists obviously didn’t plan their tribute costumes together because they clash. The girl is dressed in brown bottom pants, and a silver top to make her look like an axe because district 7 is lumber. The boy is dressed in green like a tree. In a way they go together, but in a different way they clash. Like the colors don’t quit match, and the balance is just a little off. Great, I’m dressed like a girl, and now I’m thinking like one. Katniss walks up behind me.
“What do you think?” she asks quietly. “About the fire?”
“I’ll rip off your cape if you’ll rip off mine.” I don’t want Cinna and Portia to hear, and I’m trying to be as quiet as possible.
“Deal,” she answers. I can tell she is thinking about the same thing I am, and that thought is proven when she says, “I know we promised Haymitch we’d do exactly what they said, but I don’t think he considered this angle.”
“Where is Haymitch, anyway?” I look around once more, and see he is nowhere to be found. “Isn’t he supposed to be protecting us from this sort of thing?”
“With all that alcohol in him, it’s probably not advisable to have him around an open flame.” Okay, since when did she have a sense of humor? That was genuinely funny, and we are suddenly both laughing. That sounded like something one of my friends back home would say, or myself. The opening music begins, and everyone is rushing around trying to get into place. Each district is pulled out on their chariots pulled by the horses. District 11 is just leaving when Cinna comes up behind us both. “Here we go then.” Before either of us can react, he sets our capes ablaze. Instead of heat, I feel almost tickled. I’m not being burned to death! “It works! Remember they’re going to love you!” He hops off the chariot, and has one last idea. “Hold hands!” he yells. Katniss looks confused, and she must not have heard him, so he yells again and gestures.
“What’s he saying?”
“I think he said hold hands.” I look at Katniss surrounded in flames. She looks absolutely stunning. She’s shimmering in beautiful colors, and I realize she is staring right back at me. I grab her right hand in my left, and she turns back to Cinna for confirmation. He smiles and I smile right back at him. Thank you Cinna, for having one of the best ideas ever. i enjoy the feeling of Katniss’ fingers intertwined in mine for as long as I can. Before I know it, we are being ushered into the city. The crowd’s initial alarm at our appearance quickly changes to cheers and shouts. Every single pair of eyes is turned our way, and I get a little shaky on the chariot. Katniss seems to be having a great time. She is smiling, blowing kisses; she even catches a rose, and holds it high into the air. All I can think about is how stunning she looks. I smile and wave, smile and wave, smile and wave. At some point Katniss begins to let go of my hand, but I feel like I might fall off if she does. “No, don’t let go of me. Please, I might fall out of this thing.”
“Okay,” she says. A flicker of hope crosses into my mind. Perhaps it will be possible to win her over while I’m here. But do I really want that? Then she could never truly be happy because she will always be thinking about me. I don’t know, I can’t think about this right now.
The chariots have pulled into the city circle, and the president gives a short speech. Finally we are taken into the training center, and our stylists and prep teams surround us. Portia extinguish us with a canister, and I’m so busy looking at Katniss, I hardly notice anyone else in the room. Katniss looks troubled though, and when I look around I know why. The other tributes are giving us dirty looks for stealing the thunder, and it almost makes me feel triumphant. That is until I remember I haven’t really done anything but get into a cool costume that I didn’t design. I just wore it. That’s when I notice I still have Katniss’ hand. She must realize as well because she lets go, and rubs her hand. Stupid! I must have been squeezing too hard. I need to say something to make it less awkward.
“Thanks for keeping hold of me. I was getting a little shaky there.”
“It didn’t show,” she says. “I’m sure no one noticed.”
“I’m sure they didn’t notice anything but you.” The words slip out of my mouth before I’m really able to control them. I might as well continue with the complements. “You should wear flames more often. They suit you.” Heat flares into my cheeks, and I give her a slight smile and reach to put my hands in my pockets. Then I remember I don’t have pockets so I just end up smiling at the floor like an idiot. When I look back up, Katniss is smiling with the same warmth that I’m portraying. Then something unexpected happens. Katniss steps a little closer to me, stands up on her tiptoes, and kisses my cheek. Then walks away smiling.